Milly Alcock and Emily Carey bid goodbye to their House of the Dragon characters

“We Light The Way” marks the final episode of House of the Dragon that will feature Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as cast regulars. That’s painful to hear, because fans have really enjoyed their performances as Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower. But the next episode, “The Princess and the Queen,” will skip forward 10 years, after which the characters will be played by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke.

Alcock and Carey both sat down with The New York Times to talk about their experiences. “Me and Em went through a very similar experience that our characters went through: We were both thrown into this massive role, and when it actually happened, you don’t know how to react,” Alcock said. “We’re two very young women who haven’t done massive projects before, in an environment full of men, having to live up to this opportunity. We were forced to hang on to each other for dear life.”

So even though Rhaenyra and Alicent grew apart on the show, Alcock and Carey were very close all the way through on set. “We’re very lucky in that we get along in real life, so the chemistry came very organically,” Carey said. “We’re quite like our characters.”

I’m very type-A, very anxious and very dutiful. I follow the rules. Mil’s a lot more like Rhaenyra in that sense. [Both laugh.] But I see Milly as a big sister, which is different than the characters are onscreen. Still, that closeness you see between Rhaenyra and Alicent is definitely a reflection of ours in real life.

Emily Carey thinks it will be “weird” to watch someone else play Alicent Hightower

The two actors also thought deeply about the themes of the show. “It explores the trauma that these two women would have faced within that world — not only the patriarchy, but the internalized misogyny,” Alcock said. “These two women are forced to battle with one another because of the choices made by men.”

The irony of social media being like, “I don’t want to say goodbye to Milly for Emma,” or comparing Em to Liv! That is what the whole show is about, and people are still doing it. So it’s clever.

House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon. Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

“Liv” refers to Olivia Cooke, who will be coming in as Alicent. The younger actors didn’t work on their performances with the older ones at all, apparently at the behest of showrunner MIguel Sapochnik, which is an odd choice. In any case, that means the actors are as in the dark as the rest of us regarding what’s coming. They weren’t even given the scripts, despite Alcock asking repeatedly for them. “I’m going to be watching on the edge of my seat, because I want to know what’s going to happen,” she said.

I’m so excited to see what Emma did with Rhaenyra. There’s no way I could have played her in the later stages of her life because I don’t have the same lived experience that Emma has. So I’m so keen.

Carey agreed that she couldn’t have played Alicent as an older woman, but does feel a little weird handing off the role like this. “It’s strange handing off a character that is so personal,” she said. “As actors, we put so much of ourselves into the people we play. So it’s strange having to leave someone’s story halfway through.”

At the same time, it doesn’t feel unfinished because it’s going into obviously amazing hands with Olivia. It’s going to be really cool — and weird — to watch the show as a viewer and not be critiquing our own performances, and just take it in and appreciate the show for what it is.

I daresay it’ll be a little odd for all of us who have gotten used to Alcock and Carey’s takes on the characters, but it’s exciting as well.

As for the two actors, while it’s unclear if they’ll ever return to the show, Alcock is at least happy that House of the Dragon has given them a launch pad for their careers. “There’s been a great sense of terror, of fear, of excitement. But there’s also been this utterly welcoming reassurance that me and Em have the privilege of being able to do this for the rest of our lives,” she said. “That’s something that any actor dreams of: having a sense that it’s not all going to fall apart underneath you.”

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